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Chunking - The path to success in everything

Updated on February 14, 2013

What is Chunking?

Simply put, chunking is breaking something big into smaller parts, or chunks. It might sound like a simple concept, and it is, but its impact is wide reaching. It is a concept which can be used in goal setting, improving memory, fitness, motivation, business, dieting and finance among countless others.

Joshua Foer provides a good explanation of how chunking works when it is applied as a memory technique, the area where it is most commonly know by this name.

"The classic explanation of chunking involves language. If you were asked to memorize the twenty-two letters HEADSHOULDERSKNEESTOES, and you didn't notice what they spelled, you'd almost certainly have a tough time with it. But break up those twenty-two letters into four chunks - HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES, and TOES - and the task becomes a whole lot easier."

- Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein, pg 61

After reading that explanation, it probably seems like an obvious trick that you hadn't thought much about before. Where chunking really begins to shine is when you realize how far reaching of an effect it can have across many different areas.

Chunking For Goal Setting.

The other area where chunking is most widely known, though perhaps under different names, is in the realm of goal setting. Whilst you might have some grand long term goal, say being the CEO of a company, it is not the sort of thing which you can accomplish over night. You cannot simply graduate from college and then step into a job as a CEO. In order to get to succeed in you long term goal you'll need to achieve many smaller steps along the way. So the best way to map out a plan is to break you major goal into smaller, more immediately acheivable goals, or chunks.

If you break your overall goal down into sub-goals, but you still don't see them as things which you can immediately achieve, or directly work towards, then you need to chunk these sub-goals down even further. You need to keep doing this until you have something concrete that you can act on right away. So instead of simply dreaming of becoming a CEO right out of college, you can chunk it down, and begin by apply for that Administration assistant's job, for example.

By chunking your goals into acheivable pieces, it makes it easy to see how you can go about making steps towards achieving your dreams, and it makes those dreams look much more realistic than they did before.

Fitness? Finance? Can Chunking Really Do Everything?

Whilst it might seem unlikely at first, once you begin to see how chunking works, and start applying it to everyday situations, it isn't hard to see that its applications can be far reaching.

Having trouble getting through your morning jog? why not just try jogging one block at a time, I'm sure you can do one block, it's not that far. Now when you get to the end of the block, ask yourself if you think you could do one more. My guess is that you probably could. In no time you'll be meeting those new years fitness resolutions.

Are you trying to increase your savings? Or maybe reduce the amount you spend on fast food? Why not tell yourself if you don't have a hamburger all week you can have a Big Mac meal on Friday, rather than trying to go without completely. Then just focus on not buying any fast food that day, and if your able to it once, why couldn't you do it again? Before you know it, it'll be Friday and time for your reward.

Think About How Else You Can Chunk.

Now that you understand the basics of chunking think about what problems or challenges you have that you could apply it to. There are nearly endless options when you start to look for them. Once you start chunking becomes addictive, and you'll soon find yourself breaking everything into smaller pieces, and being much more productive as a result.


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    • jeffthomson profile image

      Jeff Thomson 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for reading, Esther.

    • Esther  Strong profile image

      Esther Strong 4 years ago from UK

      This makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing. I'm sure we can all benefit from applying thi s method in a variety of scenarios.